Most singers don’t get a standing ovation before they perform.
But then again, most singers aren’t Justin Timberlake. And when Beyoncé is doing the introductions and she tells you to get on your feet, well, who’s gonna argue with her?
Timberlake returned to the Grammy Awards in high fashion on Sunday night (February 10), putting on a clinic in class, style and grace while performing two tracks from his upcoming album.
Fronting a big-band orchestra dubbed the Tennessee Kids, JT was, yes, decked out in a suit and tie as the screen went to black and white for a throwback set that opened with his comeback hit, “Suit & Tie.” While three backup dancers slid back and forth behind him while tossing rags up in the air, JT got in on the action, singing and dancing as he grabbed a piece of cloth and tossed it in the air to one of his accomplices, never once breaking stride.
Amping up the Frank Sinatra vibe, Timberlake pulled a Rat Pack move and called Jay-Z up out of the audience for the rapper’s verse. Striding up in his own custom tuxedo, Jigga faced off with his pal on the lip of the stage, dropping his rhymes as Justin added in some falsetto improvs and doubled up some of the Roc boss’ vocals.
And, because he is JT, he doubled down and busted into yet another new track, “Pusher Love Girl.” Like that scene in “The Wizard of Oz,” where things suddenly burst into Technicolor, the TV screen switched to vibrant hues as a curtain went up to reveal a full orchestra. So, just to recap, in addition to his own well-apportioned 15-plus-piece band, JT heaped on an orchestra. Because he can.
“Step with me, Los Angeles,” Timberlake implored as he leaned into the smooth falsetto come-on tune, dragging his custom microphone stand across the stage while the throwback soul serenade built to a sweaty climax. “You’re all I need baby,” he crooned before bringing the song to a slamming stop as wife Jessica Biel beamed from the crowd alongside Jay and Bey.
Before the broadcast, Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow promised MTV News that JT’s first Grammy performance since 2009 would be a “bit of a surprise,” and he wasn’t kidding. So far, “Suit” has performed well, but has not reached #1 on the singles tally and is slowly moving back down as fans await the David Fincher-directed video. But following Sunday night’s performance chances are the song will march back up the charts as the March 19 release date for the singer’s third solo effort, The 20/20 Experience approaches.
The singer peeled back the curtain a bit on Super Bowl weekend when he performed a live set that included “Pusher Love Girl” and another new track, “That Girl,” both slated for inclusion on the album.
The last time JT rocked the Grammys he did so as an 11th-hour addition following the fall-out from Chris Brown’s assault on Rihanna on the night before the 2009 show. When Brown and Rihanna had to scratch from the broadcast, executive producer Ken Ehrlich scrambled on show day to find a replacement. The always-game Timberlake answered the call and suggested doing a duet with soul icon Al Green on Green’s “Let’s Stay Together,” which was whipped together in record time to save the day.